Last night I was working on putting together some new earrings and I realized I needed some jump rings but I didn’t have the size I needed. Aha, I’ll just whip some up! Not ever having done that in bulk before it felt like a stimulating and fun little adventure. Surely, it would be satisfyingly quick job. Not.
I did wind my copper around this lovely set of steel mandrels here. These babies are cheap and great for SO many things around the studio. (Harbor Freight carries them for under $20 bucks if I remember correctly.)
I found it tough to keep my copper coil very tight and uniform on my first couple of tries. Note to self, soften wire by annealing before winding it! I sat, staring in frustration at my ugly coils and decided I should get distracted by looking at some people on youtube that have this coil winding skill naturally. Oh, the tools I saw them use! After looking up some really fancy and expensive tools and yelling out “wow!!!” a lot, I called out randomly for help in re-creating something like “that!!!” (points at fancy picture of drill vice thingy on screen). Luckily there was a strong, strapping male in my kitchen nearby with a handy set of extra hands AND the parts I need for such a creation. But.. the parts are at his work.. which does not help me while I’m filled with drive to complete the cutting of these dumb coiled wires NOW. Not later.
I grabbed a v-shaped plastic thingy for shaping polymer clay and set it in my vice. The ‘V’ holds any sized coil I need perfectly.
But.. I need downward pressure to compress the coil AND some sort of a plate to press it against that I can ALSO saw through. So I grabbed my ring polishing tool and plucked the wooded wedge out of the back end of it, sawed a line down the center and stuck it in my vice as my ‘plate’ to push against.
Grabbed a steel mandrel for pushing into my coil with and hey, that kind of worked. Until my coil went springing out of there and freshly sawed jump rings with it, onto the floor where I assumed the proper ‘metalsmith position’ with tail in the air and face in the carpet. Muttered a few choice words and tried again.. and again.. and again. Modification and learning all along the way.
Finally, I decided to put the coil directly into the vice and saw it like that and it worked muchhhhhhh better that way. Still not super ideal but certainly a bit faster with the sawing. Today hubs is rigging up a small wooden box with ripped off acrylic ice scraper mounted to the front (oh.. pics to come later.. that’s gonna be so good) so I can saw with it mounted in the vice. And a cool hand crank drill for me to twist wire into coils with. I cannot tell you how super excited I am about that!!
After (finally) collecting as many pieces of jump rings off my floor possible, I threaded them onto pipe cleaners and stuck them in my tumbler for a while. I should mention that I did the patina process to darken them when they were a solid coil. In retrospect I will do the patina process just before tumbling so that the patina extends onto the split area (which won’t be seen anyway.. but hey, I’m a stickler for details). I tumbled with water only since I didn’t want the patina to be removed. Some came off but not in all areas. I love the softness to the look.
All in all I spent far longer on this than I intended but I learned A LOT. I have an even bigger appreciation for handmade items than I already did. Because a jump ring is a detail that is easily over looked. It’s just a small circle. It holds important things together. But it isn’t the ‘main event’.. however, without it a necklace just wouldn’t be the same.. nobody’s main event really looked good all lumpy and fallen down into to their bra. This was a big lesson for me as quality is becoming more important in my work. I used to spend a few bucks on jump rings but now I’m looking at either making them myself or purchasing them from somebody who does, even at quadruple the price because when it comes down to it… the small imperfections, the time and energy it takes to make these detailed components REALLY makes a big difference in the presentation of the piece as a whole. It just doesn’t look like the stuff that comes from mass produced sweatshops. There’s life in these small circles.
I’ll update or do another post when we get the handmade jigs all up and running and I give this jump ring thing a second try.